Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704).

Marc-Antoine Charpentier is the one baroque author of whom, probably, a work is best known: he is the author of the famous hymn of Eurovison, prelude to his "Te Deum". Indeed, after Lully's death, he is the most important french baroque composer in the 17th century, although the shadow cast by Lully over him never quite dissipated.

Born in Paris in 1643, he attained his musical traineeship in Rome until 1670, and after returning to Paris he entered the service of Madame du Guise, remaining attached to that post until 1680. He also served the Dauphin, as chapel master for 10 years until 1680. In 1683 he applied to the post of Chapell Master to Louis the 14th, and indeed he passed the first audition, but for unknown reasons (most probably, he fell ill) he missed the second one and didn't qualify. Yet, after leaving the Dauphin's service, he had qualified for the post of Musical Director at the important jesuit church of Saint-Louis, remaining there until 1690. Later, in 1698, he would be appointed Chapel Master of the Sainte-Chapelle, post he would keep until his death.

As Charpentier had had his musical traineeship in Italy, once in France his first works posess a powerful, elegant an majestic french style, yet combined with a touch of italian allure, as for instance the italian sung pastoral cantata "Amor vinci ogni cosa" . in it we find the so tipiclly french "air-de-cour" with a cadenza and melodic approach very similar to that of ialian music.

Charpentier's work is, most of it, religious but, in the lyric field, we find absolute masterpieces: "Le Maiage forcé", "Les fous divetissants", "Le Malade Imaginaire" am his tragedies "David et Jonathas" and "Medeé".

"Medeé" occupies in the 17th century a very important place, as it represents the most successful attempt to break with the Lullyan tradition in the domain of "Tragédie Liryque", as Lully had the exclusive right to compose this sort of work until his death, and after very few had had a success compared to that of Lully.  "Medeé"  is, above all, astonishing: it has a charm compared to that of Lully's "Atys", a melodic an formal originality so alike Chrpentier, and a vocal expressive power very unusual, s in the monologue of Medeé in the 1st act and the spell scene. The work was such an innovative novelty that the king's brother, Monsieur, declared it "too difficult". 

A mentioned above, Charpentier's work is above all religious, and in this field he composed absolute masterpieces such as the "Te Deum" of 1697, the "Offices des Tenébres" several settings of the "Miserere"  or his Messe de Minuit" being that this last work distinguishes itself for having for musical themes popular Christmas carols of the day, delicately treated in harmony and instrumentation.

For all of Charpentier's musical abilities, he was very highly regarded as a composer, and though he never quite had a success compared to that of Lully, his mission as composer was fully accomplished, being one of the greatest french composers of all time.


Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Leçons des Ténèbres

Reccomended recordings:

-"Te Deum": Les musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski, Archiv.

-"Messe de Minuit"- Les musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski, Arhiv.

-"Office des Tenébres": Le Parliement de Musique, Martin Gester, Opus 111.

- "Miserere": Le Perliement de Musique, Martin Gester, Opus 111.

- "Médée": Hunt, Padmore, Deletré, Zanetti, Salzmann, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie, Erato. (Excepcional e inigualável preformance da protagonista).

-"David e Jonathas": Zanetti, Lesne, Gardeil, Visse, Fouchécourt, Les Arts Florissants, Christie, Harmonia Mundi.

-"Le malade imaginaire": Les Arts Florissantes, William Christie, Harmonia Mundi France.